First Things To Consider
Creating a Coming-of-Age Event
To begin planning your coming-of-age event, you will need to consider the who, where, and when issues early on. Who are the critical people who have to attend in order for the event to be complete? Does a big group sound just about right for your child or does a more intimate, private affair suit your kid’s style better? Should the event be held at your home or somewhere with special meaning? The formula for your event will be unique to your family and community.
If you want to ensure that people who live far away will be able to participate, we recommend you start with some simple planning steps at least three months before you expect to hold the event. Begin tackling the last item in this list (thinking about your lessons and challenges) at least 6 weeks before the event.
- A note about how long it takes to plan a coming-of-age event: One of the critical aspects of the Marca Via framework is that it puts the event in your hands to customize according to your needs. If you’re a whiz at planning events, or you want an intimate celebration without a lot of moving parts, or you just have the motivation to get ‘er done, you can pull off a great event in any timeframe that is manageable for you.
Prepare your child.
- The very first thing you should do before anything else is start preparing your child. Set the expectation (and the anticipation!) early to clarify that this is something that your family does. It’s important, it’s fun, and it’s an essential part of the growing-up process. Your child likely will have some questions, but doesn’t need to know exactly what will happen. A bit of mystery adds intrigue to the event and will likely make your child more curious and excited about it. However, if you encounter resistance, it’s also the perfect time to play your parental “it’s not negotiable” card.
Next, consider whom you want to include in the coming-of-age event.
- Are there critical people you want to ensure can attend? If so, start by using a calendar app such as Doodle (https://beta.doodle.com) or Rallly (http://rallly.co) to identify the dates that will work for people whom you want and need to accommodate.
- Be sure to check out the section in Marca Via’s free Coming of Age Guidebook on Pulling Your Community Together to help you make decisions about whom to include in your event. This section covers issues such as single gender versus co-ed events, choosing the size of your coming-of-age team, and navigating tricky issues about your invitation list.
Think about when and where to hold the event.
- Do you plan to hold your event in and around your home or in a different location entirely? Some families may choose to take their child out of their everyday setting for the event, such as out into wilderness for a weekend. Others might opt for a location that has sentimental meaning. Sometimes it makes sense to have the event take place in the home of an important relative or friend who is unable to travel.
- Are there people you’d like to include who don’t live nearby? If so, do you anticipate having difficulty getting them to attend? Consider setting your date around (right before or after) another life milestone such as a school promotion/graduation, religious confirmation, bar/bat mitzvah, a special birthday like a Quinceañera, or a family reunion. However, we do not recommend you link the celebration to another individual’s event such as a wedding or funeral. You will want the focus to be firmly on the child and not detract from other events.
- If people are traveling from out of town, do you need to block rooms at a local hotel/motel to accommodate them or arrange housing with friends?
Create a communication plan to reach out to your community.
- Think about how you will let your chosen coming-of-age team know about the importance and value of this rite of passage, the involvement that you hope they will commit to, and what they can expect from the event (see our sample invitations in the Marca Via Coming of Age Guidebook Appendices). Because most people in western societies probably have not participated in a coming-of-age ritual, it’ll be your job to paint a picture for them and let them know what to expect (and what you expect from them). You may want to call people individually, send a group letter or email, or a combination of the two in order to describe the purpose, feeling, style, etc. of the event and why they are being asked to participate and help plan it.
- Figure out how your group can plan activities and challenges together, if possible. By collaborating on the design of the activities, tests and challenges, you often will come up with better ideas for execution than one person can devise on his or her own. Joint planning also will build camaraderie among the team. In-person meetings are ideal, but free video-chat technologies such as Skype, FaceTime or Zoom are useful tools for connecting people who aren’t local.
- Given your invitation list, determine if the same form of communication (e.g., group emails) will work for everyone. Some older folks may not use email frequently, while younger people may be much more responsive to messages sent via text or social media.
Think about the lessons, skills, and values you want to emphasize for the emerging adult.
- Identify the skills, values, character traits, traditions, etc. that are most important to you that you explicitly want to teach and emphasize for your child. This is what the event is all about, so it’s never too early to start thinking about this. Some of the values or skills that are most important to you may be hard to distill into a challenge, so it might take some time to come up with how you will design them. Don’t leave your lessons and challenges until the last minute. You don’t want to be rushed on this important step. (See the list of ideas for character traits/values and skills/lessons in the Appendices section of the Marca Via Coming of Age Guidebook.)
- Involve your friends and family. It’s likely you will get excellent ideas from the people you are including in the event because they have different life experiences and perspectives. These perspectives can be very powerful. For example, one of our friends worked as an occupational therapist helping people recover from or adapt to illness, injury, and age. She devised a test for one of our children about flexibility and resiliency to illustrate how life can change quickly, and that you may have to figure out how to function with completely different abilities and tools. It helped show what it feels like to have physical limitations, thereby conveying another lesson about compassion. We never would have come up with this challenge without this community member’s insight and assistance.